On the surface, the Islamic Republic of Iran is an unsavory authoritarian state unworthy of support, much less acclaim. A regime that is deeply embedded in Syria's civil war and has embraced terrorism as an instrument of statecraft would seemingly be at a disadvantage in presenting its case to the international community. Yet Iran has had some success imposing its narrative on the negotiations Iranian officials and Western nations are conducting about its nuclear program. The theocratic state demands that its "right to enrich" be recognized upfront and that its past nuclear infractions be forgiven. The great powers' diplomacy will be judged not by clever formulations they devise to accommodate Iran's "red lines" but by their ability to veer Tehran away from its maximalist positions.
President Hassan Rouhani has managed to inculcate the notion that he is under pressure from hard-liners at home and that a failure by the great powers to invest in his presidency would end Iran's moderate interlude. The implication: Time is of the essence, and the West should not miss an opportunity to deal with pragmatists who seek a breakthrough on Iranian arms control.But a more careful examination reveals that the Islamic Republic has reached an internal consensus. It is ruled today by a national unity government. The factionalism that has historically bedeviled the theocracy has, for now, been set aside.